The City Wire, March 4, 2015
Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation, told students at the University of Arkansas that the role of big business is to serve society by using its own strengths and working with other companies to improve the worldwide community.
She was the featured speaker Tuesday (March 3) at the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and the Honors Student Board in Hembree Auditorium at the University of Arkansas.
McLaughlin was recruited by Wal-Mart in October 2013 from McKinsey & Company where she spent 20 years rising to senior partner working on sustainability and global social challenges. She joined the nation’s largest retailer after visiting Bentonville and meeting the company leadership, saying she was impressed that Wal-Mart was a “mission driven company.”
As she discussed the success factors, she pointed to strategies at Wal-Mart where the company is focusing its efforts to strengthen its responsibility to the world. McLaughlin noted Wal-Mart’s increasing employee wages and developing programs to encourage frontline employees to move up to the middle level. This investment will cost Wal-Mart about $1 billion this year and includes a plan to raise the hourly wage of all full-time employees to $10 an hour by February 2016. That said, the recent announcement resonated with analysts and retail trade groups. TJX Companies, the parent of T.J. Maxx, has followed suit announcing higher minimum wages on the heels of Wal-Mart’s move.
Wal-Mart critics say the wage plan falls short, and doesn’t do enough to provide workers more hours. Emily Wells, an organizational leader with OUR Walmart, says the group will still push for its $15 an hour goal.
“With $16 billion in profits and $150 billion in wealth for the owners, Walmart can afford to provide the good jobs that Americans need – and that means $15 an hour, full-time, consistent hours and respect for our hard work,” Wells said.
As with wages, Wal-Mart draws critics on the sustainability front.
“Wal-Mart has made remarkably little progress in moving to renewable energy, while other national retailers and many small businesses are now generating a sizable share of their power from clean sources,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance and co-author of a November 2014 report on energy and carbon pollution. “Despite making a public commitment to sustainability nine years ago, Wal-Mart still favors dirty coal-generated electricity over solar and wind, because the company insists on using the cheapest power it can find.”
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